Talk:Micrurus fulvius

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 Definition Venomous elapid species found in the southeastern U.S.A. [d] [e]

I have copied the following from my talk page and moved it to the discussion page of the article, where I think it is relevant. Micrurus fulvius Nancy Sculerati MD

Hi Nancy, While I appreciate your desire to contribute to Micrurus fulvius, I have a number of problems with your last edits to this article. For starters, you did not included any references for the information you added. I like to include references for everything: not only to back up the statements, but also to remind myself of where the information came from (I have many books on the subject).
Your statement about the fangs being short, blunt and not hollow is in error. All elapids have hollow fangs with which they inject their venom, although the fang groove is "not perfectly consolidated over the canal" (Wright & Wright, 1957). Your statement furthermore seems to understate the potential seriousness of bites from this species. Before Wyeth antivenin became available, 10-20% of bites were fatal. Stidworthy (1974) mentions that "of the few bites that have been delivered to humans by coral snakes, a high percentage have been fatal." In the United States, there are somewhere between 20 and 60 coral snake bites a year (Campbell & Lamar, 2004).
As for the rhyme, it's probably a good idea to include it, but only in the Description section and I insist on a reference. There are also variations of this rhyme. When I was a kid, for example, I learned it as "Red and yellow kills a fellow, Red and black nice to Jack." Regarding your edits to the Description section, those need to be in a separate sentence with their own reference, since Behler & King (1979) do not make the caparison you added.
I disagree with your position that most specimens are too small "to easily inflict an open wound". In 1893, L. Stejneger wrote of M. fulvius: "...it has been repeatedly asserted that the mouth of the Elaps is so small that it cannot bite as well as other poisonous snakes. This, however, is somewhat of a mistake" (from Wright & Wright, 1957). In fact, most snake's jaws can open almost 180° and I believe M. fulvius is no exception. It is true that the most coral snake bites are to the hands and fingers, but this is also because the snake is usually being handled when the bite occurs, and not just because the head is relatively small (Campbell & Lamar, 2004).
Finally, I'm disappointed about the way you somehow managed to use a generic common name for this species no less than four times within a single paragraph. I try to avoid using any names at all in the text, opting instead for terms such as specimens, snakes and species. After all, it is a monograph! At any rate, all of the information you added to the introduction belongs in the Description section. The introduction is supposed to contain a summary of the rest of the text as opposed to containing any original information.
Sorry to be so tough on you, but I'm just as hard on myself. So much nonsense has been said and published in the media regarding venomous snakes that we must take great care to ensure that these articles are as accurate as possible. (If you want to reply, you can do so here, since I've temporarily added your talk page to my watchlist). --Jaap Winius 11:15, 23 December 2006 (CST)

That little rhyme was taught to me by Professor Herndon G Dowling, a well-known herpetologist who was a full professor of Biology at NYU, and had been curator of snakes and reptiles at both the American Museum of Natural History and the Bronx Zoo in NYC. I do not know the origin of the phrase. Dr. Dowling's teaching points about the coral snake were made during several field trips to the southeastern United States, on which I had the privilege of accompanying him - where many of the mimics live in the wild, and where there are also a number of vipers, as I'm sure you know. His remarks about snake bite were not aimed at a person handling the snake, but to a person wandering in natural areas where they are endemic. Whereas the Eastern rattlesnake inflicts many bites on the person who might be cutting brush and trees and not watching their feet - even if shoed, the coral snake accounts for very few fatal or injurious bites to humans in the wild, for the reasons mentioned. Nancy Sculerati MD

P.S. the teeth in this species are grooved- and in that sense "hollow", but the tooth does not extend all the way around the hollow, and in that sense they are not nearly as effective in delivering venom. I stand by my statement that the teeth are relatively blunt, as compared to viper fangs. Nancy Sculerati MD

For all I care, you can add anything you want to this article -- just as long as it is relevant and you provide the necessary references. Anything beyond that I'm sure we can work out. It's just that I've written well over 100 articles for WP/CZ and have gone out of my way to make sure they're all 100% referenced. I too remember lots of things that are not in my books, including that rhyme, but even though it would sometimes make writing easier, I never include that in these articles. Instead, all of the information I add is very carefully researched and referenced. I'm asking you to please follow suite. --Jaap Winius 14:09, 23 December 2006 (CST)

Found a "red and yellow" reference, and quoted it. I don't know how to put the reference in with a proper footnote, and I hope that you can help. I'm very impressed with the work you have done both here and on Wikipedia, and I will try to work with you. Since I have access to the medical literature, in a large part, I think I will work a bit on the article on Snake Venoms. I would appreciate your input, and look forward to any edits you might make - as well as discussion on the talk page. Regards, Nancy Sculerati MD

I've moved most of your stuff to new section called Mimicry, where I also modified your reference and added some more information myself. Notice how your reference now appears in the Cited references section. However, we'll need to find some more references for the other stuff you added, or else it'll have to go. I've tagged those sections so as to make sure you know which ones I mean. Also, would I be correct to assume that everything in your paragraph (not in section Mimicry) ahead of the Conant reference is from that book? (fair warning: I just ordered the same 1975 edition of this book 2nd hand from Amazon for $10.00).
If you'd like to work on the Snake venom article, great! I have a good deal of information on the subject, but have to admit that the biochemistry is beyond me. I'd be happy to help you where I can. The WP version of this article started out as a copy of a paper by George Albert Boulenger that was published in 1913. Toxinology has come so far since then, that you might as well scrap the current article and start from scratch. --Jaap Winius 22:24, 23 December 2006 (CST)

References

Actually, Nancy found a good example where a footnote is unnecessary, I think, and the requirement of a footnote amounts to pedantry. There are many examples of "common knowledge" that we get from a variety of sources for which probably no source is more reliable than the memory of an attentive, intelligent adult.
I too am impressed by your work, Jaap, so please don't take this in the wrong spirit. I think the habit of including very many references in our articles is problematic, and I think I've put my finger on why: the difficulty with over-referencing articles is that the references themselves have to be double-checked. It is far easier for an expert to consult his or her sources, which are far more ready to hand than whatever references happen to be cited for a specific point. In other words, references are idiosyncratic, whereas information is more universal and hence easier to check.
On Wikipedia, references are used for two purposes (among perhaps others) for which they are not needed on CZ. (1) To prove to each other that what we are writing is correct, and not just making stuff up. If we are dealing with experts, we get out the references only if we disagree. Otherwise, they are not necessary; we trust that an expert will not simply make stuff up, because his or her professional reputation is on the line. (2) To make the article seem more authoritative. But since the approval of a genuine expert on CZ will make the article quite credible, references are not needed for this.
In short, then, Jaap, we won't have Wikipedia's requirements regarding referencing. In fact, for readability and maintainability, we might start removing a lot of WP's references. --Larry Sanger 00:35, 24 December 2006 (CST)

Nancy's is a good example, I admit. However, if we start adding unreferenced material like that, where will we draw the line? That's why I think its easier to just take the black and white approach and either state something with a reference or not state it at all. As for using references at all, I cannot image not working that way. Here are some reasons why:

  • I have many books on snakes that contain references like this for important facts. One of my favorites (True Vipers by Mallow et al., 2003) has references for perhaps 75% of the text or more. The authors could have left out those references, but they left them in for a good reason: to add credibility to their work. So, if it's good enough for their publications, how can it not be good enough for ours? We need that same credibility.
  • That's not to say that references don't benefit the authors. I've written many articles, but often read over them and wonder whether I made any mistakes or not; perhaps I suspect that I did not paraphrase accurately enough. But, thanks to my own references I can see which books to check for the information in question and can quickly settle the matter.
  • Also keep in mind that we've got (will have) many authors working on many articles over long periods of time. In this particular case, neither of the current authors of this article are experts and it may be a while before a real herpetologist shows up and is willing to review all of the articles we've produced. If this herpetologist sees anything he doesn't trust and wants to ask questions, hopefully we will still be here to answer them. If not, I can only imagine that he will be very happy if he is at least left with the appropriate references.
  • Regarding experts, I think that we'll be lucky if we can get experts to check all of our articles for errors, but I very much doubt that we'll get them to write them all for us. I have little doubt that most of the writing will still be done by non-experts, in which case the experts will be less than impressed if we do indeed include references for everything. After all, that's pretty much the way our professors taught us how to write papers back when we were students at the university, right? (of course, I wouldn't know this because I've never studied at a university).
  • Having everything 100% referenced is great for avoiding conflicts. For example, Nancy and I are currently at odds regarding certain physical characteristics of the fangs of M. fulvius. Right now it seems to be her word against mine, but such conflicts are easily avoided -- also between experts -- if all parties simply agree to back up all of their claims with proper references. If both parties have good references, then it's no problem whatsoever to include both statements as opposing points of view.
  • So, if you're not an expert and you're writing an article on a subject with which you're not 100% familiar, forcing yourself to find referfences for everything can also teach you new things. For instance, I wrote Bitis gabonica twice: the first time based largely on what I remembered to be correct, and the second based on what I forced myself to discover. The result: I found out that, like everyone else, I previously had an exaggerated idea of the size of these animals. They are indeed the heaviest vipers in the world, but they're not that heavy!
  • I'll admit, though, that adding and maintaining references can be a bit of a pain. They also clutter up the text, especially for authors. However, I've managed to get used to the system the way it is and would rather have it the way it is than not at all. To make things easier for myself, I have a little workaround: a text file that I keep open when writing articles that I copy reference entries from whenever I need them (it has entries for all of the relevant books that I own). This is not to say that the footnote system cannot be improved; a number of good ideas have been kicked around in the forum that I believe are quite promising, such as a central database for references, or a way for letting the readers make the footnote marks appear and disappear.
  • Finally, if you Google for "How to Write Professional Articles" you'll end up with a number of articles telling you the same thing: that good references for everything are essential. Yes, professional reputations are on the line, but that's exactly why the experts always include really good references for everything! Which is why we'd better do the same, or else people will see us as no better than WP.

In conclusion, references have many advantages and few drawbacks. They are essential for good articles and using them for everything is a no-brainer. If you think credibility at CZ is going to come automatically, you're dreaming! We're going to have to earn that reputation, article by article, sentence by sentence and be really hard on ourselves. Only then will the experts take us seriously and will students be able to quote our articles and feel confident that they will not get bad grades from their teachers. --Jaap Winius 10:26, 24 December 2006 (CST)

Jaap, I wasn't suggesting that we not use references. I have encouraged people to use references since Nupedia days--Nupedia had a clever footnote feature. So, if your arguments are meant to establish that we should use some references, that's fine; I agree with you.

But the notion that we must provide references for all claims made is a recipe for disaster, and "goes overboard," i.e., takes a good idea and takes it to a terrible extreme. First, there are very many claims that are common knowledge in a field. For such claims, one could choose any from a hundred (or a thousand) references. Second, for those who actually understand the function of citations, such citations make the article seem less credible, not more: if an author has to provide a citation for something that is common knowledge in the field, it instantly marks the article as the work of an amateur or student. This quite frankly is why I and many others have no small contempt for the number of references in Wikipedia articles: it makes the articles read like earnest high school student papers.

Examine I've said earlier, regarding readability and maintainability. These are extremely important. If expert approval establishes our credibility in general--i.e., for claims that are "common knowledge" among experts on a topic--then it seems the only citations (footnotes) that "pay their own way" (i.e., justify their existence) are the ones for points that are not so well-known among experts.

To comment on a few of your points:

  • That's not to say that references don't benefit the authors. I've written many articles, but often read over them and wonder whether I made any mistakes or not; perhaps I suspect that I did not paraphrase accurately enough. But, thanks to my own references I can see which books to check for the information in question and can quickly settle the matter.

You might be able to check the point, but others, who are as or more expert on the topic of vipers than you, cannot check those references if they don't have them; they (those other experts) might be inclined to use some other references. Moreover, and more importantly, you're saying that references are useful for the author(s) of the article. But this is a mistake borrowed from Wikipedia, where so many features of articles seem to be designed for the convenience of the contributors rather than the users.

  • Also keep in mind that we've got (will have) many authors working on many articles over long periods of time. In this particular case, neither of the current authors of this article are experts and it may be a while before a real herpetologist shows up and is willing to review all of the articles we've produced. If this herpetologist sees anything he doesn't trust and wants to ask questions, hopefully we will still be here to answer them. If not, I can only imagine that he will be very happy if he is at least left with the appropriate references.

The herpetologist will not humbly submit questions to you, as you seem to imply. The herpetologist will, I hope, come in and completely revise your articles, if they need revision: they are not your articles. The presence or absence of citations will not make the process of revision much easier, because biologists like many scholars have their own preferred references, and might simply have contempt for the ones on your bookshelf.

To avoid that shabby treatment and edit warring that might ensue, you can do yourself a favor and remove references to relatively obvious and well-known points. Then, instead of the relatively pointless debate about what is said by the references originally provided, you can have a productive debate about the facts themselves, using whatever references (or actual published field work) are most appropriate.

The point is that amateurs may not be as good at choosing references as experts. I certainly have observed this problem with the philosophy articles on Wikipedia. The overuse of inappropriate references is a bit embarrassing for them, in philosophy anyway.

  • Regarding experts, I think that we'll be lucky if we can get experts to check all of our articles for errors, but I very much doubt that we'll get them to write them all for us. I have little doubt that most of the writing will still be done by non-experts, in which case the experts will be less than impressed if we do indeed include references for everything. After all, that's pretty much the way our professors taught us how to write papers back when we were students at the university, right? (of course, I wouldn't know this because I've never studied at a university).

Given our experience so far on the CZ pilot project wiki, I'm not sure that most of our writing will be done by non-experts! Also, bear in mind that experts have an obligation to be sure of the facts stated in articles, before they approve of the articles. Most academics and professionals take such obligations seriously.

  • Having everything 100% referenced is great for avoiding conflicts. For example, Nancy and I are currently at odds regarding certain physical characteristics of the fangs of M. fulvius. Right now it seems to be her word against mine, but such conflicts are easily avoided -- also between experts -- if all parties simply agree to back up all of their claims with proper references. If both parties have good references, then it's no problem whatsoever to include both statements as opposing points of view.

This is a fallacy. References themselves conflict all the time. Suffice it to say that you could write a laughably bad encyclopedia, absolutely full of errors, that repeated errors in otherwise reputable sources.

  • So, if you're not an expert and you're writing an article on a subject with which you're not 100% familiar, forcing yourself to find referfences for everything can also teach you new things. For instance, I wrote Bitis gabonica twice: the first time based largely on what I remembered to be correct, and the second based on what I forced myself to discover. The result: I found out that, like everyone else, I previously had an exaggerated idea of the size of these animals. They are indeed the heaviest vipers in the world, but they're not that heavy!

I agree, more or less. But let's distinguish now bibliography from citations: "references" can mean either one or the other. I agree that it is important to provide a bibliography or list of works cited--although, again, experts might heavily edit the choices here, because the function of such a list in encyclopedia articles is to help guide the user to further information. But the process of writing an article via consulting reference works, as you've done, does not require that such works be cited in footnotes. You can learn just as much without providing footnotes for what might be, after all, common knowledge among experts.

  • I'll admit, though, that adding and maintaining references can be a bit of a pain. They also clutter up the text, especially for authors. However, I've managed to get used to the system the way it is and would rather have it the way it is than not at all.

Perhaps too many footnotes is better than none, I might agree with that; but too many is still a problem.

  • (cont'd) To make things easier for myself, I have a little workaround: a text file that I keep open when writing articles that I copy reference entries from whenever I need them (it has entries for all of the relevant books that I own). This is not to say that the footnote system cannot be improved; a number of good ideas have been kicked around in the forum that I believe are quite promising, such as a central database for references, or a way for letting the readers make the footnote marks appear and disappear.

Remember, the footnotes are not there for you or even for all contributors, but for readers. This is a constraint on whatever system of footnoting we adopt.

  • Finally, if you Google for "How to Write Professional Articles" you'll end up with a number of articles telling you the same thing: that good references for everything are essential. Yes, professional reputations are on the line, but that's exactly why the experts always include really good references for everything! Which is why we'd better do the same, or else people will see us as no better than WP.

Encyclopedia articles are quite a different beastie from typical professional articles--which is the point. --Larry Sanger 13:58, 24 December 2006 (CST)

I came to this article via the forum post Larry made. I read the above discussion and then looked at the article. I had expected to find a huge number of references but I am surprised to see there are only five.
Why are five references causing claims of over referencing. Five references is probably quite a reasonable number to have. The problem I see is not in the number of references, but in the number of in line superscript links pointing to those references. This is quite a different issue and one that I don't feel has been discussed above. It's not the number of referenced texts that caught Larry's attention, rather it is the manor in which the references are linked.
Here is an article that really does have too many references - London has 41 in line references. It's a long article and covers many topics including history, geography, eduction, transport and so on. The difference between London and Micrurus_fulvius is that London cites 41 different books or sites; where as this article cites the same 5 books multiple times.
Why use in line references in preference to a unlinked list in the footnotes? Well look at The British_Empire. It has 52 references. None of which are in line. It's a long article with many sections. I have no idea which references correspond with which sections of text. I suspect most of them don't correspond to any of the text and were just put in for show.
However, returning to my main point. We need to discuss how to use references in the article rather than focus on the number of [4] style links or the visual appearance of the references. Should multiple links be made to the same reference? Should we use in line <ref> tags or not? Derek Harkness 05:24, 25 December 2006 (CST)
Five references, 20 footnotes. --Larry Sanger 23:58, 25 December 2006 (CST)

Well, clearly there are different possible styles. The Encyclopedia articles that I've written professionally in some cases have asked specifically that I do not use any references - that my word alone is authority, and that I should just give a short reading list. That I think is not appropriate here, but I think the line should be that any recent or potentially disputed fact - i.e. a potentially questionable fact that you would not expect to find in any encyclopedia topic on the subject must be referenced. For an introductory article, I would expect that there need be very few references, for a detailed technical expert article, perhaps many. In the end, the question is are the references helpful or are they a hindrance to the reader? If the references are verifiable on line and are valuable and notable extensions they are clearly valuable even when they might strictly be redundant. As for style - one compromise is the format in chiropractic, where essentially each section is given a single encapsulated set of references; I think that worked well there. But it won't work well everywhere. I don't think we need impose a single style, but I do think we should formulate some considerations that authors should bear in mind when using references.Gareth Leng 13:42, 25 December 2006 (CST)

For elementary or comprehensive articles, detailed references should not be expected or needed, because they will be in the more specific articles. Just a reading list is required.
For the most advanced ones, I thing the same rule that would hold in an advanced text book: the recent reviews and the classic articles in a reading list, and stuff too recent or not in the reviews, referenced in full. Intermediate level articles--I suppose are intermediate. DavidGoodman 18:45, 25 December 2006 (CST)

One solution to too many references is to put them all in an early draft , then remove the selectively when the text reaches finality. That way only the most important, recent, comprehensive or valuable ones will finally appear, which I think is the best outcome The main authors and the article history section can keep the reference details as a backup for future dispute or accuracy resolution. David Tribe 05:53, 26 December 2006 (CST)

I've been experimenting with a method in 'snake venom'. As I read full-text articles, if pertinent, I have been listing them in a section in discussion. Lately, I've begun to put a few notes after each). Perhaps, we could add a tab so that in addition to 'talk" there is a specific tab for references. see snake venom, go to discussion page. For example, (although I have not written it yet), it is apparent that most harmful bites to humans in world are from front-fanged snakes, and there are so many refernces to this around the world that simply having a reference section is superior to any single citation.Nancy Sculerati MD

Larry, I think you have a point. Although my method of referencing everything does have its advantages -- so much misinformation exists regarding venomous snakes, that more references have made it easier for me to defend myself against 12-year-olds and the like at WP -- perhaps it is indeed not necessary to go so far at CZ. For instance, not having to reference things that are "common knowledge" among specialists and completely uncontroversial makes sense.
On the other hand, I'm not sure it is enough to say references will only be needed for controversial and little known facts. For instance, in most of my articles I would still want to include references for information that is important, such as taxonomy, scale-count data and geographic range. The same goes for information that is often surrounded by hyperbole, such as size, behavior when disturbed, venom toxicity and yield, bite statistics and envenomation symptoms. There's also on-line information that is easy to provide references for: if the IUCN lists a species as endangered on their website and we say so, why not include a link to that page as a reference? In other words, I can think of a lot of in-line references that I've created that I could remove (perhaps the majority), but I can also think of many that I would rather keep. --Jaap Winius 12:59, 26 December 2006 (CST)
I think at the authoring stage, everything that is not common knowledge needs to be very well referenced. At point of approval, however, it seems acceptable for some or perhaps all to be removed. The point of referencing is largely to show that the author(s) have indeed done their homework. Requiring articles to be very well referenced during the authoring process and before entering the approval process seems it would best serve both other authors and editors. Non-referencing at the authoring stage creates a culture of sloppiness and I'd like to see most articles not have to be laborious for editors after submission. I'd venture that projects like Britannica follow this procedure. Stephen Ewen 23:07, 14 January 2007 (CST)

That sounds like an excellent middle ground between how I've been working so far and how Larry wants to see things turn out: use lots of in-line references (except for obvious things) until the article has been approved, after which most can be removed. These references can then be moved to a separate section further on down the article (no longer in-line). If any more information is added after the article has been approved, we could require in-line references for that.
Once again, though, even when an article has been approved, I don't think we'll want to remove all of the in-line references. For example, my snake articles all include in-line references for the synonymy and the number of recognized subspecies to show which taxonomy is being followed. I'm told this is standard practice. It's a lot easier to work this way than to have to include an explanation each time. --Jaap Winius 12:00, 16 January 2007 (CST)

FYI: One of the most important reasons citations are given in research journals is so that the research can be duplicated. It was at one time common to see everything with sources, down to providing industrial sources for reagents, for example. In this way the researcher duplicating or extending the research in an article could be sure of setting up a duplicate study with the same conditions. Since that is not a purpose of encyclopaedias in general, to my knowledge anyway, that may be a moot point for this encyclopaedia. However, multiple citations and footnotes would serve to provide reasons why a particular problem has more than one possible--theoretical-- solution. In the case of autism, for example, which I am helping to polish at Wikipedia, there are a lot of explanations for cause and symptoms and prevalence. To provide a balanced view, it is necessary to provide the sources of those views, which may be complex.

PS: Not sure if I have the signature template correct but I am registered. Thomas Simmons 15:40, 14 February 2007 (PST)

Interesting discussion. I think I'm most at home with cramming the references in while doing development work, and then letting them get weeded out at approval time, by the editor(s). I'm only a lay author, with very few references to hand on which I base any edits, so I feel that it is incumbent on me to reveal my sources. It will certainly help me if an academic comes along at a later stage and points out any faults in my sources, and gives me tips for better ones.
Two points seem to be missing from the discussion so far.
One is that we are not working on an encyclopaedia, but a compendium of knowledge, if I understood Larry's original aims correctly. Given this, it seems perfectly reasonable to offer a whole slew of reference sources. Maybe these should be on a separate tab, as suggested above, and maybe they should be rated, as well. I've no way of knowing which on-line sources to trust, and one link that I recently followed from the BBC site seemed very weak.
The second point almost flows from this. If we are aiming to be cutting edge, and part of Web 2.0, then restricting ourselves to an academic format for presentation seems to be defeating the whole object! We should be looking at ways to layer the information that is presented so that it is not 'lost', but merely hidden from view, with the user being offered the opportunity to customise or structure the way information (to the level that is wanted) is presented. Losing background in the editing process seems to be a retrograde step! Neville English | Talk 11:39, 20 February 2007 (CST)

another quote from a published source for "red and yellow"

"All coral snakes are brightly colored with black, red, and yellow rings. The red and yellow rings touch in coral snakes, but they are separated by black rings in nonpoisonous snakes, creating the well known rhyme: "Red on yellow, kill a fellow; red on black, venom lack." This rule is not always true outside of the United States." Richard C. Dart, Frank F. S. Daly. Tintinalli's Emergency Medicine > Section 15: Environmental Injuries. Copyright ©2006 The McGraw-Hill Companies.

Although I have no references for this, somewhere along the line I was told that a good way to remember the color patterns of these animals is to think of them as basically red in color (the ground color) with yellow-black-yellow triads (R-YBY-R). Harmless milk snakes, Lampropeltis triangulum ssp., on the other hand, can also be regarded as having a red ground color, but with black-yellow-black triads (R-BYB-R). Milk snakes and a number of related species come in a bewildering variety of color patterns, such as with many narrow triads, just a few wide ones, or with one color dominant over one or both of the others, and it looks to me like its much the same story with coral snakes (outside the USA).
Browsing through Campbell & Lamar's wonderful book, Venomous Snakes of the Western Hemisphere (2004), which includes color plates of all(?) New World coral snake species, I see that one other combination frequently occurs in the coral snakes of Central/South America: R-BYBYB-R. In other words, the black from the center of the triad extends to outside of the yellow rings. This seems to me like the main reason why the rhyme doesn't apply outside the USA. --Jaap Winius 09:17, 28 December 2006 (CST)

You're right, Jaap. From what I have read the "red and black do touch" venemous ones start in southern Mexico and go south from there. The way I see it, all of these books, with the exception of the field guides,are aimed at an "armchair reader" in a sense. The reason I emphasized Herndon's teaching is that it really is emphasized when out in the field. It's very useful to know in that setting. He led several graduate courses (Field Herpetology I, II, Field Biology) that I was lucky enough to take as an undergraduate in the US many years ago. ( I bet you would have loved them, I know I did). The courses had mostly biology graduate students, and a couple of other professors, and each involved 2-5 weeks of camping in the pine flats of South Carolina, Georgia (Okeefenokee Swamp), the Florida Panhandle and the Great Smoky and Blue Ridge mountains. A couple of those locations had many coral snakes, and of course, we were all fanned out looking for snakes, going through underbrush. Dr. Dowling and some of the graduate students were expert snake handlers and often caught venemous snakes, but I and most of us were interested in NOT catching (though admiring of) Micrurus fulvius and I assure you, even though I have a reasonably good memory for abstract concepts, I chanted that "kills a fellow" rhyme right out loud in my mind as I went through the pine flats. I was quite fast and proud to be able to snatch up a Lampropeltis without any apparent harm to it or me, but I was not going to do that with a coral snake, some of which I came across being quite large. I know that the rhyme was taught to local kids from talking to them in a couple of the campgrounds. (As you might imagine, they tended to come around and visit our campsite!)Nancy Sculerati MD 11:04, 28 December 2006 (CST)

That's it! I now know that my life has been a complete waste. Why are you torturing me like this? ;-) I should have studied biology/herpetology and I should have been there with you. But no, I decided that there was no money in it, so instead I half-heartedly went for a minor business education and ended up in IT. At least it isn't hard to earn a living this way, and it's interesting when you get a complex system to work (it's like the Lego blocks I used to play with as a kid), but on an emotional level computers will never mean the same to me as what you just described.
Seriously, though, I think much of this color pattern discussion belongs in a revised article for Micrurus, or perhaps a completely new article for coral snakes and their mimics in which only the various color patterns are discussed (it would be nice if we had lots of images for that). --Jaap Winius 12:54, 28 December 2006 (CST)

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